SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic: The debate, even enmity, dividing the Dominicans and Haitians has arrived at the streets of New York City.
Every year, an organizing committee of Dominicans living in New York, called, Dominican-yorks, coordinates the Dominican Day Parade down Manhattan´s Sixth Avenue.
This year’s edition of the parade started off on the wrong foot when the “queen” of the parade was accused of being a Haitian, which she denied.
From then on, things went downhill. Diario Libre reported that the President of the Dominican Day Parade, María Khoury, received “death threats through phone calls and text messages“ and that she isn’t aware who’s behind the threats.
“The threats occurred after the Instituto Duartiano made a call to boycott the parade which is carried out every year because, among the participants of the parade, there was a group called ‘We are all Dominicans’ which have pro-Haitian tendencies, ” she said.
In the interview, Mrs. Khoury added that her family members were also included in the threats.
The Dominican Consulate officially withdrew from participating in the Parade, allegedly because “there would be disturbances”.
Maximo Padilla, the President of the Comité del Dominicano en el Exterior (Codex), the Dominicans Overseas Committee, questioned the participation of Marcha Verde in the Dominican Day Parade, carried out last Sunday. They participated without carrying Dominican flags in “an event organized exclusively to spread our history, national symbols, culture, traditions, and folklore.”
Maximo Padilla added that Marcha Verde attracted the attention of the community in the Big Apple because they participated only dressed in green without carrying the Dominican tricolor flag, which he believes to be “dubious and even anti-Dominican.”
There were also repercussions in the country itself. The president of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic, Milton Ray Guevara, asked all Dominicans to “renovate their commitment to independence and national identity because threats are near.”
He continued: “There is a lack in the reaffirmation of our patriotic spirit in order to guarantee the freedom and sovereignty of the Dominican people.”
In order to better understand the difficult situation these two countries find themselves in, we’ll dig into some important historical facts:
Saint Domingue became France´s prized colony in the Caribbean when the Treaty of Ryswick was signed in 1697 giving it the Western part of the island of Hispaniola, of which the rest belonged to Spain.
After that, during more than a century, the French had more than 800 sugar cane plantations, totaling more than half a million slaves, with around 30000 whites, by the time the French Revolution arrived.
Thomas O. Ott, in his book The Haitian Revolution 1789-1804 states that: “The Haitian Revolution has often been described as the largest and most successful slave rebellion in the Western Hemisphere. It is certainly the only servile uprising that led to the creation of an independent nation, Haiti. Slaves initiated the rebellion in 1791 and by 1803 they had succeeded in ending not just slavery but French control over the colony. The Haitian Revolution, however, was much more complex, consisting of several revolutions going on simultaneously. These revolutions were influenced by the French Revolution of 1789, which would come to represent a new concept of human rights, universal citizenship, and participation in government.”
Out of this turmoil, Toussaint Louverture ended up governing Haiti until he was captured and sent to France to die in a dungeon a few years later.
What does the New York Boycott mean for the Dominican Republic
It is a little-known fact that the only country in Latin America which did not gain its independence from Spain is the Dominican Republic, it was from Haiti.
A few years after the triumph of the Haitian Revolution, in 1822 Jean Pierre Boyer invaded the Spanish side of the island of Hispaniola and thus Haiti declared the whole island”one and indivisible” as the Haitian Constitution claims to this day. The occupation lasted twenty two years until Juan Pablo Duarte and his “Trinitarians” declared the Independence of the Dominican Republic in 1844.
The rest of the century became a long series of attempts by the Haitians to reconquer the Spanish side without success until a group of landowners started to believe that it was only a matter of time until they succeeded and converted the country back into a Spanish colony.
This sparked a popular uprising known as the Restauración (Restoration) of the Republic, in 1865.
A great part of the border between the two countries is formed by the Dajabón River (also called Masacre River). Author Freddy Prestol Castillo wrote a novel named “El Masacre se pasa a pie” (the massacre can be crossed on foot) commemorating the massacre of Haitians which occurred in 1937 at the orders of Rafael Trujillo, which caused many to flee by crossing the river.
The problem is that river can be crossed both ways and is the main avenue for the entrance of Haitian nationals into the Dominican Republic.
This has caused a “peaceful invasion” by the Haitians throughout many years, making Dominicans feel they are being slowly but steadily invaded.
Ultimately, this might have helped ignite the New York City’s Dominican Day Parade Boycott, where the possible cause is the attitude by many Haitians that see themselves as “Haitian/Dominicans” and empowered to “take over” the New York Dominican March.